Male circumcision could help HIV prevention in PNG

4:54 pm on 16 March 2017

A Papua New Guinea academic says research suggests that male circumcision is helpful for efforts to prevent HIV AIDS infections.

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Photo: AFP

According to the UNAids office in PNG, latest statistics estimate that 46,000 people in the country are infected with HIV.

But health services are struggling to contain a growing prevalence rate of infection in two particular regions: the Highlands, and the Papua, or Southern, region.

With PNG's Health Department looking for new methods of prevention, the research of Engan woman Rachael Tommbe at James Cook University in Cairns is expected to come in to consideration.

Oil Search-sponsored HIV AIDS awareness message in Papua New Guinea's Highlands.

Oil Search-sponsored HIV AIDS awareness message in Papua New Guinea's Highlands. Photo: RNZI / Johnny Blades

"The studies done up in the Highlands have shown that men who have full circumcision and (men who have partial) split, they both have possibility of protecting men from HIV, but that particular study needs to be done further, to look at the foreskin."

Ms Tommbe said most of the data she has collected is from the National AIDS Council, the Health Department, and studies from the PNG Institute of Medical Research and other universities.

Some regions of PNG have significantly higher populations of circumcised males than others.

These regions, she said, "have lower HIV prevalence than those regions who don't have any cutting in place".

Ms Tommbe said studies in Africa however confirmed that men with full, round circumcision had a better chance of protection than those with just a partial or longitudinal cut.

She added however that more studies needed to be conducted into the relationship between various forms of male circumcision and HIV AIDS prevalence.

The WHO and UNAIDS agencies have recommended that countries with hetrosexual-driven AIDS epidemics and low male circumcision practices adopt medical male circumcision as a prevention strategy.

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